Worried About the CELTA Assignments?

Worried about CELTA assignments? Are they difficult? Do they take a lot of time? All of your questions will be answered in IH Cairo’s CELTA Live Sessions

Webinar Summary

Today’s topic is one of the things that all CELTA candidates might have concerns about, which is the assignments. How many CELTA assignments are there? 
There are four and every CELTA course around the world has four assignments, each one is between 750 and a thousand words. The minimum is 750 and the maximum is a thousand, so you can see they’re not very long.

What are they about?
They’re basically all connected to teaching, they’re very practical because they’re related to the classroom.

The first one, this is a Cambridge label, it calls it 2.1 but the place where you take your CELTA might give it a different name. It might be called Assignment 1 or Assignment 2, Assignment 3, but the title itself doesn’t change. So it’s called “Focus on the Learner” This is the first one in the Cambridge syllabus guidelines and you can find this on the Cambridge website, this information is freely available. Again, it’s Cambridge, so no secrets, no surprises.

When you do the course, you will find where it says “Candidates can demonstrate their learning by…” this criteria will be on the front page of your assignment. This is what the tutors have to follow when they’re marking your assignments. 

So “Focus on the Learner” is basically about analyzing the difficulties of either a student or the class in general, different centers will do it in different ways. The assignment is basically the same all over the world, but maybe the way your center does it might differ slightly. This is a typical classroom situation, you’ll notice that some students have difficulties with certain grammatical structures, so you’ll basically be listening when you’re doing your teaching practice, when you’re observing, listening to students, noticing what difficulties they have. One of the areas is often grammar, another area is often pronunciation, another could be skills.

So from that information, you try to find solutions to help the students. This usually means looking in some teacher’s resource books, not necessarily grammar books. We try to avoid things like gap-fill exercises or transformation multiple choice, these kinds of things because they’re rather old-fashioned and there are hundreds of excellent teacher’s resource books around with activities to practice those problems.

So something to practice the present simple, third-person singular, etc. And of course these books will be available to you on the course because your center will have a library where you can find the book, so you don’t have to buy anything and they are provided in the library.

How can I pick a student? Are they the ones we’re teaching already?
They are the students in your TP, your Teaching Practice group. So you can’t use students from the school that you work at or university work at. And they must be the students on the course because you’ll all be focusing on that particular class.

If you’re being asked to just analyze one student, of course, we agree that as a group so one candidate selects one student, another candidate selects another so that you’re not all focusing on the same student. And sometimes you’ll interview them, we often ask them to give us some writing, like write about yourself, for example, because this is quite useful for analyzing grammatical problems or writing problems such as linking, punctuation, capitalization, full stops, commas, and especially for Arabic speakers because obviously Arabic doesn’t have upper or lower case.

So students are going to misuse them and they have problems remembering. And of course Arabic doesn’t use many full stops, whereas English uses lots of them, so these pieces of writing from the students are very useful for this.
This is for the first assignment. It’s all about the learner. You choose a student and you base your assignment on his or her weakness point. 

The second assignment. This is called “Language related tasks,” as you can see the Cambridge labeling they call it assignment 2.2. Again, in your center it might be assignment one or assignment two, the title will still be the same, just different places label them differently because some centers like to give them at different stages in the course for their own reasons.

The word count is the same. You’ll be asked to analyze language correctly, like maybe name a tense or name a structure, for example, second conditional, third conditional. And then you have to say what it means, what kinds of problems the students could have with this form and again, how you would help them to correct it.

This assignment is designed in different ways according to the center, although the content is the same. It’s usually a mixture of grammatical structures and vocabulary lexical items. So you might be asked to analyze maybe three sentences focusing on a grammatical structures, and maybe two or three words, that’s your typical language related task assignment because the purpose of the assignment is to help you analyze language for teaching in class and this will help you when you’re teaching grammar in class as part of your teaching practice.

And you have to look things up because sometimes you think you know the name of the tense, but it might be different. You might be using some strange terminology, things like the verb three, which doesn’t exist in any grammar book but is used by some teachers in different countries. There’s no such thing as verb two or verb three, these are just made up things by teachers to help their students, but we have to be very careful because it’s okay if you’re teaching in a country that understands that, but if you’re teaching in a multilingual class, many of your students will not have heard of this term. So you have to be correct, you write the past participial or the past simple or the infinitive, the base form, or whatever.
It’s a fairly straightforward assignment, but you have to follow your instructions very carefully and use grammar books as references to check things, check the meaning of the vocabulary, go to a dictionary, preferably a real one.

The third one, “Language skills related tasks”
The criteria is on the right, so you’ll also see on the front of every assignment the grading criteria and as always it has the word count at the end. But the word limit is there for a reason, you have to stick to it.

Now the purpose of this one is usually to analyze a reading text, a receptive skills task, sometimes it might be a listening. Most centers around the world tend to focus on reading. Either you have to find a text yourself or your tutors give you a text and say “We’d like you to design some questions, and you have to tell us which skills you’re practicing, things like skimming, scanning, intensive reading or so on.” And you have to refer to at least one methodology book, and you add a quotation. So that’s part of the assignment.

You make some questions, explain why you are using those questions, which skills you are practicing, then the other part of the assignment is a follow-up task. So, because this is usually a receptive skills assignment, the follow-up should be a productive skill, so receptive skills are reading and listening and productive skills are speaking and writing. So if you’re doing a follow-up task, it should be something on speaking or writing.

So maybe your text, for example, talks about something quite controversial and so you might decide that you think the students would benefit from doing a speaking task, maybe a debate or discussion, and you explain why you think this.

So this is “skills” The titles look very similar, you got “Language related tasks”, but this is “Language skills related tasks” it’s related to the skills, not the system of the language.

The fourth one is called “Lessons from the classroom”
Again, the numbering system might vary depending on your center, but basically this is a self-reflection. This is probably the easiest assignment of all. So you’ll sort of just discuss your general impressions of the course, what you’ve learned from it, things that you’ve learned by observing your tutors or other experienced teachers. Maybe difficulties that you had when you first started the course; a common problem, for example, TTT (Teacher Talking Time) or not giving clear instructions or demonstrations and how your group fixes these problems.

And then you talk about the things that your tutor has mentioned, the things that you’ve been doing well on, you also talk about the things that you still need to work on. Then you finish off with a little action plan of what you are going to do after the course is finished, because anybody who does a CELTA soon realizes that this is just the beginning of your teaching experience and it certainly doesn’t give you everything cause it’s only four weeks, you can’t learn everything but this is to prepare you for further teacher development. So this is a nice easy assignment compared to the others.

If this is easy, that means the rest are still difficult.
Well, let’s say they perhaps take a bit more thinking, maybe a little bit more research. Let’s remember, this is the most important thing, because there are only a thousand words, that really is only a couple of pages, so if you think of it as sort of two pieces of A4 (paper) you can’t write very much, which means we don’t expect you to do lots of research, this isn’t a thesis. And we don’t expect detailed in-depth analyses, they’re very short because Cambridge doesn’t want you to spend too much time on them. So most CELTA centers, and we do the same, we give you these assignments at the weekend so that you have time to do them. Some assignments, like the last one you could probably finish in 2 or 3 hours very easily.

The first one “Focus on the learner” for example might take you a bit longer because you’ve got to analyze the students’ problems and you have to choose usually two or three problems and then find two or three solutions. So you’ll need to look in some teachers’ resource books. Your tutors will tell you what to look for, we give you some hints and these books are usually in your library that’s provided by the center, so you don’t have to search. Sometimes you might want to go online, and again, we often suggest which websites to look at.

So those other assignments might take you anything between three to five hours. That’s why you have the weekend to do them, you start and plan it, then you finish it and you have time to do them. We don’t expect them all immediately and so that’s why they’re short.

They are related to teaching, they’re very practical. Please don’t go into theoretical detail, because that’s not what we want you to do. On a CELTA course, if it gives you instructions that don’t go into theoretical detail, don’t go into theoretical detail. You will not be praised for providing two thousand words on theory, because all that will happen is your assignment will be given back to you and you’ll have to do it again and you don’t want to waste your time like this.

Don’t go overboard and don’t complicate it. The thing to remember, because we’re asking you to write about things in a way that maybe nobody has asked you to write about before, Cambridge gives you two chances. So let’s say you do the assignment and maybe parts of it are incorrect or perhaps you didn’t proofread your writing very well, you do get a second chance. This is called a resubmit. So if you redo that part and you follow the instructions, your assignment will pass. And if you don’t make the changes that were suggested to you, then the assignment fails.

If I resubmitted four CELTA assignments, will this affect my grade? 
If you pass your all resubmitted assignments, that is absolutely fine. I know that there have been some myths, perpetuated by some YouTubers (they are not CELTA tutors) who have been telling people that you won’t get an A, or B if you resubmit your assignments and that’s not true. That’s not entirely true because assignments are probably not, while they’re important, they are not as important as the teaching practice.

So the only time assignments affect your grade is if you fail one of them. Cambridge says if you fail one assignment, you won’t get an A, but you can get a B or a Pass and that’s fine.

And if you fail two assignments, then you fail the course. So this is why you follow your instructions. We tell you what to do when it’s resubmitted; if you follow those instructions, you pass it, if you don’t, we gave you the help and you ignored it.

And this is why it’s very important to get your information from qualified tutors, not what we call the ”wanna be” YouTube people who because they’ve got a DELTA they suddenly think there are CELTA experts. They’re not tutors, so there’s information they simply don’t know because unless you are a tutor, you don’t know the whole course-the big picture.

If someone got A, someone got B, someone just got Pass, in the teaching field, would it make any difference when I apply for a job?
No, a Pass is fantastic. Most people around the world get a Pass. We’ll talk about grades in another live, but most people around the world get a Pass, many of your CELTA tutors got a pass. A is about five percent worldwide. So imagine that there are thousands of people taking CELTA around the world and less than 5% get As, and it doesn’t matter whether you speak English as the first language, or experienced or inexperienced.

And Bs, I must say the same but it’s about sort of 10-15 percent approximately and then most people get Pass and that’s absolutely great, anything extra is icing on the cake. I have never been asked in 34 years what grade I got, all my employers wanted to know and I worked for the British Council as a teacher training manager, a very responsible job managing budgets representing the council in different countries. I got a Pass and nobody asked me, “Did you only get a Pass? You didn’t get an A or a B?”

Being a non-native speaker, will CELTA entitle one to get employability in the international job market?
The answer is yes. Many teachers who do not speak English as a first language get jobs in different countries. Some places are more difficult than others, European Union countries are always difficult if you are not from a European Union country, because the employment laws only allow them to employ EU citizens. 

But there’s plenty of work available. Lots of Egyptians for example work in Saudi and the Gulf countries. Many people work in the Far East in China, Vietnam and South Korea. So there’s plenty of work. There are often job possibilities in the UK and the US as well, especially teaching refugee classes.

The majority of English teachers in the world are teachers who do not speak English as a first language, so the reality is, there’s plenty of work, you just might have to search a while.

I will mention one important thing because this applies, do not plagiarize because we use plagiarism checkers. In some of these forums, Facebook groups, YouTube groups, they say “oh, you can borrow my assignments,” Don’t do it, because the way that a center designs their assignments might be different from the one where you’re doing the course. If you don’t understand the assignment, if you didn’t understand your tutors’ instructions, please ask. This is our job, we are paid to help you.

Are there any standards for the CELTA assignments? For example, the style of writing or structure?
Obviously, we want you to write clearly and correctly. You’re usually shown an example of the assignment. Don’t go into long theoretical detail, just write simply and clearly. So keep it clear, keep it concise, stick to what you are asked to write about. If you are asked to write about this particular structure, don’t write about another one because we told you what to write about and so we’re not looking for a style, just write simply, clearly, and concisely because you only have a thousand words.

If you give the tutors the assignment with 1300-2000 words, we will give it back to you immediately without even checking, bring the word count down. So, please don’t waste your time unnecessarily like that. And please proofread your work, because you might need to resubmit it because you didn’t check your written work properly. You’re an English teacher, we expect you to write correctly. 

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